The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press joined a lawsuit yesterday seeking the release of basic information about more than 1,000 people arrested and detained following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs contend that the Justice Department and Attorney General John Ashcroft continue to refuse to provide enough information to guarantee that the detainments of those individuals adhere to constitutional principles.
“There is extraordinary public interest in the criminal investigation into the events of September 11,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy Dalglish. “It is not in the long-term interest of the United States to throw non-citizens in jail and keep secret their identities and the grounds for keeping them imprisoned.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for National Security Studies and the Electronic Privacy Information Center prepared the lawsuit, which was filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The Reporters Committee joined the lawsuit, along with 15 other civil-liberties and public-interest groups.
The lawsuit follows an Oct. 29 request to the Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act. The request, in part, sought the identity of the detainees, the names of their lawyers, their place and length of incarceration and the nature of charges filed against them.
The Justice Department responded to the request in late November, offering only partial and fragmentary information about the detainees. The lawsuit contends that the department did not satisfy the request for information.
The lawsuit doesn’t question the need for the Justice Department’s investigation but seeks assurances that its efforts aren’t conducted outside public scrutiny.
A copy of the complaint is available at: http://www.aclu.org/court/detainee-foia-complaint.pdf